Here at Beetnik we truly believe that a roast chicken should be a celebration! We love that it’s low key enough to prepare on a weeknight and yet it can transform into something much more extravagant on the weekend.
It’s no secret that the legs of a chicken cook at a different temperature than the breast, due to the fact the muscles in each are very different. The breasts, a less active part of the chicken, need less oxygen so the fibers in the meat are more tender and need far less time in an oven. The legs and thighs, on the other hand, are very active parts of the chicken, chock full of extra fibers and veins that require a longer cook time.
So what’s a hungry Beetnik to do? Do you overcook the breast and to save the legs or do you do the opposite? No need to choose, seeing as how you can prevent the breasts from drying out [despite a longer cooking time] by brining the entire bird first.
We’ve explored the basics of brining in past blog posts, but today we’re here to delve deep into the wonderful world of brining your poultry. Get your chicken thinking cap on, it’s time to LEARN!
Simply put, brining is submerging your cut of meat in a brine solution. Typically, a brine solution consists of salt and sugar dissolved in water -it can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. This is your world, the chicken is just roasting in it!
What is a Wet Brine?
When we think of brining, this is usually the first type of brine that comes to mind. You’ll want to use a pot large enough to submerge an entire turkey or whole chicken. The liquid base you’ll be working with is water, kosher salt, and sugar. Feel free to add your choice of herbs, spices, and vegetables– we like lemon, rosemary, and onions.
First, you’ll bring the liquid to a boil, as it will bring together the flavors from your chosen spices and aromatics. After your sugar and salt have dissolved you’ll need to wait to add your poultry to the pot. Please adhere to this rule – adding a chicken to lukewarm liquids is a big NO in terms of food safety.
You can leave your chicken in the wet brine for up to two days, but the liquid will need at least 12 hours to work its magic.
What is a Dry Brine?
The key to dry brining is preparing. You’ll want to complete your dry brine 1-3 days before serving your bird. Use a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of chicken. Some mix a tsp of baking soda with the salt, but this is entirely up to your preferences. Pay your chicken dry and sprinkle with the salt mixture. Let the mixture sink in, you’ll want it well coated but not completely covered. Think along the lines of a very generous seasoning, you don’t want to completely pack it on. According to J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, “dry-brining for more than 24 hours will produce even more juicy and well-seasoned meat. To brine longer than 24 hours, loosely cover turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth before refrigerating to prevent excess moisture loss through evaporation. Let rest for up to 3 days.”